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Every word and Syllable in English has a vowel (well not Cwm and crwth, but technically not of English origin but still a killer Scrabble move). We pronounce vowels with no blockage of the airway (Beck, 2006).


Clymer (1966) did the first review of phonic rules. He examined “primers” and came up with generalizations we use today:

  1. a single vowel will be short in a closed syllable, or a syllable that closes the airway
  2. a single vowel will be long in an open syllable, one that leaves the airway open
  3. when a word ends in a vowel, consonant, e the e is silent and the vowel long (magic e)
  4. when vowels go a walking the first does the talking, two vowels such as rain, the i makes the a say it's name, or long vowel sound.

Other researchers (Burmeister, 1968) found the open and closed syllable rules did little to capture how close vowel phonemes can sound. Vowels just do not have predictable phoneme patterns like consonants (Johnston, 2001) and therefore must get taught through grapheme-phoneme connections.

Key Terms

Digraph- A digraph consists of two vowels that make usually one sound. The first vowel is usually the long vowel in words such as rain, fleet. We often refer to these as the talkers since the vowel says it's name.

Dipthong- A dipthong, or glide, consists of two vowels that make a new sound. Think boy, book, cow. If you speak the dipthong slowly you can hear the two distinct sounds “gliding” together. Split Digraph- The magic e. The vowels do not touch but stay a consonant away.

Schwa Vowels -Schwa vowels make the u sound such as the word “about”

Research Based Teaching Tips

Feel a Vowel Have students feel the sounds they make. When students place ahand up tot their mouth have them say open syllable words with a long vowel and closed syllable words with a short vowel. Have them make the long and short vowel sounds for each vowel and discuss how the shape of their mouth or placement of their tongue changes.

When introducing short vowels in cvc words remember how similar vowel phonemes sound to young readers. Do not introduce too many vowels at once. Introduce a vowel followed by additional consonants so students can make more words. You need to give students enough practice decoding one vowel before introducing another.

Blending and Segmenting When teaching two letter pair grapheme-phoneme connections such as digraphs put the word on a board or in a letter chart. Then had students blend the word. Repeat a few times. Then pull the digraph from the word.Say just the vowel sounds and then put the consonants back on the end and beginning. Then introduce another vowel pair that makes the same sound. Say feet and bead for example.

Word Building Word building activities (Beck , 2006) have students get opportunities to make associations with grapheme-phoneme connections by repeatedly changing one letter in a word.

Decodable Text Decodable text involve using books with a specific onset and/or rhyme to help build fluency in reading common grapheme-phoneme connections

Word Sorts Words sorts have students sort words based on a vowel pattern. So yo you have students sort /rain/ and /bay/ into one pile and /meat/ and /feet/ in another. Or the can separate by spelling and have four piles.

Encoding Examining vowels in writing also helps to identify where students need help with phonics isntructions. Vowels remain difficult (Share & Stanovich, 1995) so providing opporunitites to decode and encode the phoneme-grapheme connection will help.

Dictation Dictation also helps with vowel discrimination. Students have a journal and the teacher dictates words they have built with the class. The students then write those words down.

In the Classroom

The following videos in the phonics series utlizes research based teaching tips in a series of four instructional moves:

  • Say My Name-Using dictation and one to one letter and sound mapping
  • Stretch and Smash-Connecting phonemics and phonics by blending and segmenting graphemes into sounds
  • Word Work-An interactive that has students identify,sore, or build words utlizing letter and sound mappings
  • ELL Support-Specific tips for tricks to connect phonics to both languages while also addressing differences in phonics patterns

Short Vowels

Open Consonant Long Vowel

CVCe words

Vowel Digraph

Vowel Dipthong

vowel_phonics_patterns.txt · Last modified: 2022/03/13 15:44 by